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SB-617 Residential solar energy systems: permitting.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 02/19/2021 04:00 AM
SB617:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 617


Introduced by Senator Wiener
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Chiu)
(Coauthor: Senator Becker)
(Coauthor: Assembly Member Robert Rivas)

February 18, 2021


An act to add Section 65850.52 to the Government Code, relating to solar energy.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 617, as introduced, Wiener. Residential solar energy systems: permitting.
Existing law requires a city or county to administratively approve applications to install solar energy systems through the issuance of a building permit or similar nondiscretionary permit. Existing law requires every city, county, or city and county, to develop a streamlined permitting process for the installation of small residential rooftop solar energy systems, as that term is defined. Existing law prescribes and limits permit fees that a city or county may charge for a residential and commercial solar energy system.
Existing law grants the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regulatory authority over public utilities, including electrical corporations, as defined. Decisions of the PUC adopted the California Solar Initiative, which is administered by electrical corporations and subject to the PUC’s supervision. Existing law requires the PUC and the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (Energy Commission) to undertake certain steps in implementing the California Solar Initiative. A violation of the Public Utilities Act or any order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission is a crime.
Existing law specifies that the financial components of the California Solar Initiative include, among other programs, programs for the installation of solar energy systems on new construction, which collectively are known as the New Solar Homes Partnership Program. Existing law requires the program, which is administered by the Energy Commission, to be funded by charges in the amount of $400,000,000 collected from customers of the state’s 3 largest electrical corporations. If specified moneys are exhausted, existing law authorizes the PUC to require each of those electrical corporations to continue the program pursuant to guidelines established by the Energy Commission for the program until the $400,000,000 monetary limit is reached. If the PUC requires the continuation of the program, existing law requires any funding made available to be encumbered no later than June 1, 2018, and disbursed no later than December 31, 2021. Existing law makes the provisions of the program inoperative on June 1, 2018.
This bill would require every city and county to implement an online, automated permitting platform that verifies code compliance and instantaneously issues permits for a residential photovoltaic solar energy system and an energy storage system paired with a residential photovoltaic solar energy system, as specified. The bill would require a city or county to amend a certain ordinance to authorize a residential solar energy system and an energy storage system to use the online, automated permitting platform. The bill would prescribe a compliance schedule for satisfying these requirements, which would exempt a city or county with a population of less than 10,000. The bill would require a city or county with a population of 10,001 to 50,000 to satisfy these requirements by September 30, 2023, while cities and counties with populations greater than 50,000 would be required to satisfy the requirements by September 30, 2022. The bill would require a city, county, or fire district to provide the option of remote inspections by real-time or recorded video or photo for a residential photovoltaic solar energy system and battery storage systems paired with a residential photovoltaic solar energy system. The bill would require that the remote inspections be offered at no greater cost, and be available with no greater delay, than in-person inspections. The bill would require a city, county, or a fire district to report to the Energy Commission when it is in compliance with specified requirements, in addition to other information. By increasing the duties of local officials, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill would prohibit the provision of specified funding sources to cities and counties not in compliance with certain provisions relating to solar energy systems and fees charged for their installation or if they are not in compliance with provisions of the bill.
The bill would authorize the Energy Commission to provide technical assistance and grant funding to cities and counties in order to support the above-described requirements. The bill would require the commission to develop grant guidelines and other requirements, as specified, by July 1, 2022. The bill would require the PUC to require the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the Southern California Edison Company, and the San Diego Gas and Electric Company to repurpose $20,000,000 supporting the New Solar Homes Partnership Program, as specified, to providing technical assistance and grant funding, and to pay the administrative costs of the Energy Commission. Because this requirement would expand the definition of a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill would require the Energy Commission to set guidelines for cities and counties to report to the commission on the number of permits issued for residential photovoltaic solar energy systems and the relevant characteristics of those systems.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that with regard to certain mandates no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
With regard to any other mandates, this bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs so mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 65850.52 is added to the Government Code, to read:

65850.52.
 (a) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Energy Commission” means the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission.
(2) “Energy storage system” means commercially available technology, located behind a customer’s utility meter, that is capable of absorbing electricity generated from a colocated electricity generator or from the electric grid, storing it for a period of time, and thereafter discharging it to meet the energy or power needs of the host customer or for export.
(3) “Photovoltaic solar energy system” means any of the following:
(A) A solar collector or other solar energy device the primary purpose of which is to provide for the collection, storage, and distribution of solar energy for electricity generation.
(B) Any of the following structural design features:
(i) Solar racking, solar mounting, solar trackers, solar carports, solar shade structures, solar awnings, solar canopies, and solar patio covers, regardless of whether the feature is on the ground or on a structure.
(ii) A design feature the primary purpose of which is to provide for the collection, storage, and distribution of solar energy for electricity generation.
(iii) A photovoltaic device or technology that is integrated into a building, including, but not limited to, photovoltaic windows, siding, and roofing shingles or tiles.
(4) “Residential photovoltaic solar energy system” is a photovoltaic solar energy system that is installed on a single family dwelling.
(5) “SolarAPP+” means the most recent version of a web-based portal, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, United States Department of Energy, that automates plan review, produces code-compliant approvals, and issues permits for residential photovoltaic solar energy systems and energy storage systems paired with residential photovoltaic solar energy systems.
(b) (1) Pursuant to the compliance schedule in paragraph (2), a city, county, or city and county, shall implement an online, automated permitting platform, such as SolarAPP+, that verifies code compliance and instantaneously issues permits for a residential photovoltaic solar energy system and an energy storage system paired with a residential photovoltaic solar energy system, and consistent with the system parameters and configurations, including an inspection checklist, such as used by SolarAPP+. Consistent with the same compliance schedule, a city, county, or city and county shall amend its ordinance adopted pursuant to subdivision (g) of Section 65850.5 to authorize a residential solar energy system and an energy storage system to use the online, automated permitting platform.
(2) (A) A city or county with a population of less than 10,000 is exempt from paragraph (1).
(B) A city or county with a population of 10,001 – 50,000, inclusive shall satisfy the requirements of paragraph (1) no later than September 30, 2023.
(C) A city, county, or city and county, with a population of greater than 50,000 shall satisfy the requirements of paragraph (1) no later than September 30, 2022.
(c) A city, county, city and county, or fire district shall provide as an option remote inspections by real-time or recorded video or photo for a residential photovoltaic solar energy system and battery storage systems paired with a residential photovoltaic solar energy system. These inspections or reinspections may be scheduled electronically via email, the online, automated permitting platform pursuant to subdivision (b), or other electronic means. Remote inspections shall be offered at no greater cost, and shall be available with no greater delay, than in-person inspections.
(d) The Energy Commission may provide technical assistance and grant funding to city, county, or city and county, in order to support the implementation of online, automated permitting for a residential photovoltaic solar energy system and an energy storage system paired with a residential photovoltaic solar energy system, the implementation of remote inspections for a residential photovoltaic solar energy system and an energy storage system paired with a residential photovoltaic solar energy system, and compliance with the requirements of paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) and with subdivision (c) in a timely manner.
(1) The Energy Commission shall develop grant guidelines and other requirements in a public process by July 1, 2022.
(2) The Energy Commission shall prioritize processing grant applications from local jurisdictions serving low-income communities, disadvantaged communities as defined by the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool, also known as CalEnviroScreen 3.0, or those containing high fire-threat districts as defined in subdivision (h) of Section 3280 of the Public Utilities Code.
(3) The Public Utilities Commission shall require Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison Company, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company to repurpose twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) of funds supporting the New Solar Homes Partnership Program, pursuant to paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) of Section 2851 of the Public Utilities Code, for providing technical assistance and grant funding and to pay the administrative costs of the Energy Commission. Notwithstanding subparagraph (B) of paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) of Section 2851 of the Public Utilities Code, these funds may be disbursed after December 31, 2021.
(e) A city, county, city and county, or a fire district shall report to the Energy Commission when it is in compliance with subdivisions (b) and (c).
(f) The Energy Commission shall set guidelines for cities and counties to report to the commission on the number of permits issued for residential photovoltaic solar energy systems and the relevant characteristics of those systems. A city, county, or city and county shall report annually to the Energy Commission pursuant to those guidelines within a year of implementing the automated solar permitting system pursuant to subdivision (b).
(g) (1) A city, county, or city and county that is not in compliance with Section 65850.5 or 66015 is not eligible to receive the funding available pursuant to subdivision (d). A city, county, or city and county shall certify its compliance with Section 65850.5 or 66015 when applying for funds from a state-sponsored or state-administered grant or loan program.
(2) A city, county, or city and county that is not in compliance with subdivisions (b) and (c) is not eligible to receive funds from a state-sponsored or state-administered solar or energy storage grant or loan program, other than the funding available in subdivision (d). A city, county, or city and county shall certify its compliance with the requirements of subdivisions (b) and (c) when applying for funds from a state-sponsored or state-administered grant or loan program.

SEC. 2.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution for certain costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district because, in that regard, this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.
However, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains other costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.